Got into Vegas from Shanghai just an hour or so ago.
Upon seeing this shiny place ringed by desert again, I didn't expect to have such a strong emotional reaction. Maybe the jetlag contributed, but being here again after this summer's RV trip, for only the second time in my life, just smashed down on me and almost made my eyes water. It's not like I'm remembering something that happened twenty years ago, either - we were here back in July. I think it's a testament to just how impactful that trip was on me.
Maybe I didn't realize exactly how broadly the journey effected me, and to some extent maybe I'm still settling back into things and coming off that road-high. Writing might be one example of this. I know in my head that at some point I'm going to call this sounds familiar dead-time "the big gap." That I've already named it for future writing means I'm getting closer. More telling still are the ideas for entries that have been jumping into my head again; on plane flights, in taxis, on the soccer field, the shower; the usual places.
It could be that I haven't seen my family in two weeks, and won't for another few days before we meet again in Portland. Missing them and being here, a place where, even if we didn't really have the best time in the world, I was last together with them on this wild transforming journey, surely plays a part. I miss my family.
So I don't know... but I'm going to go out and walk the strip a bit (after a shower to wash the full day's travel off me) and see if I can catch further nostalgia.
Until later then.
Last full day in Taiwan dawned rainy and gray again.
I set the alarm for 6am, which turned out to be about an hour earlier than I really needed to roust and ready myself. For some reason though, instead of going back to bed I grabbed my book and read for a while in Pat's living room. I should have gone back to bed; the previous night's soirée didn't wrap up with me on the doorstep until fairly late. OK... not Taiwan-late, by any means, but US-late for sure. Anyway, sleep is rare commodity in Asia... I'll take what I can get.
The driver comes by the apartment tomorrow 'round 8am to take me to the airport. The thing about doing the Asia-to-America route is that you effectively go back in time over the course of the seemingly infinitely-long air trip. Not this time for me, as United took away the direct Taipei-to-San Francisco flight and you have to make a stopover in Tokyo. It's OK; I know the terminal there and there's a place that has some good curry noodles with this spicy pork. The wireless elusive, but there's a payphone I can call Sharaun from and the chairs are three-long before a divider bar so you can do a full kicked-back relax mode.
When I called Sharaun on the walk to work this morning, she let Keaton answer the phone with a huge, "Hi Daddy!!" Oh, such a heartwarming phrase! Almost brings a tear to the eye when you hear it! My conversation was mostly with her instead of Sharaun, which was fine by me by far. She was watching Dora, and wondered what I was doing ("Walking to work in the rain," I said). She was also excited that I'd be home soon (although my feeling of "soon" when applied to leaving is a little skewed compared to their feeling of "soon" when applied to my arrival), and told me she'd come with Mommy to get me at the airport. Nonetheless, it was good to talk to both of them.
I know I have three paragraphs here and precious little actually said, at least that I've not said already this week, but I think I'm satisfied.
Talk to you next week back in the good old US-of-A. Goodnight.
Hey there... guess what? I actually had some time today to both do work and write a little bit. Meetings at work were productive again, just didn't last all day. It's better that way.
Let's write some blog.
Sitting now in Henry's Bar, Taipei Taiwan. Haven't been here in years but the place hasn't changed a lick. Even the same people working here. It was a cloudy sometimes-rainy day today, but the weather stayed cool enough that walking around outside on the way to and from lunch (which, by the by, was delicious) was pleasant. Walking around Taipei offers one something of the same kind of "big city" feel that traipsing around Manhattan would - the people, the traffic, the buildings looming on every side - it's a very metropolitan experience and I enjoy it; makes me feel "grown up" and full of business (nod to Pat's similar thoughts here).
Over the past few months Sharaun and I have done a fair bit of solo traveling. Her to Florida a couple times for a friend’s wedding, me to Oregon, China, and Taiwan. During these times apart we’ve sort of developed a habit of sending each other pictures via cellphone – well, the one at home with Keaton sends pictures to the traveler, at least. Overseas this week, I’ve really enjoyed getting pictures of Sharaun and Keaton from back home. And, even though they make a bit more pointed my missing my family, I find myself going back and looking at them on my phone at various points during the day. In fact, this week’s volley from Sharaun was good enough that I wanted to share. Here, then, are the pictures Sharaun and Keaton sent along to make my time away feel not so far way. Enjoy.
Well that's about it for today methinks. Not much more time, not much more I haven't already mentioned.
Ni hao internet.
Somehow it feels like I've been over here for more than a week already. Touched down in Taipei yesterday evening after the short two hour direct flight from Shanghai. The direct flight is relatively new, whereas previously you'd have to stop in Hong Kong. "One country, two systems," or somesuch. Here in the ROC, I'm staying at Pat & Cynthia's place. It's brand new, plush, more than comfortably sized and quite well-appointed. Found my way back to the place alone last night when they turned in for the night about an hour earlier than I did; wandering the once-familiar streets of Taipei again.
The week's activities are a tad less work-centric than the time in Shanghai - at least I hope so. Meetings blocking out the mornings today and tomorrow (which is like yesterday and today, or something, for the US readers... it's confusing), but the afternoons and evenings are fairly open. Rough plans have been sketched out: karaoke; shopping for some cheap computer hardware (need a webcam to Skype with family back in Florida - Keaton wants to video-chat with her cousin Hobson); many dinners and lunches consisting of delicious foodstuffs. Y'know, the standard Taiwan stuff.
This morning on the walk to work we stopped at a little roadside eatery for a "local breakfast." Having come from the $30 hotel buffet in Shanghai, the sub-100NT tab was quite a difference. And the food was, arguably, better than the Shanghai Hilton fare. I like all the walking in this city... and I've written about it somewhere before (I'll just link to the blog's entire "Taiwan" category here, rather than try to find the exact entries). This morning the weather was particularly mild, bright, and clear (even moreso compared to the dingy particulate-laden Shanghai ozone) and, being the first one awake in the house, I stepped out onto Pat and Cynthia's little patio and just street-gazed for a while.
Goodnight folks. Until the next day in Asia. Love you.
Hi from the other side of the Earth, internet. I miss my family. Sharaun e-mails me pictures and it makes me miss them more.
Shanghai is pretty much like I remember it. Even though it's been quite a while since I've been here, it looks roughly the same - although the seemingly never-ending construction and population influx means things look even more crowded and dense, if possible. I swear it seems like this city sprawls as much as it crowds, both growing outward and becoming thicker inside. The streets teem with people; people walking, riding bikes, scooters, cars, trucks, buses - all of it a quivering ball of loosely organized chaos. The people are as hospitable as ever, and the food is always delicious.
On the plane over I started feeling some sinus & respiratory discomfort - as I often do when flying, the tight space and recycled air, perhaps - but it's gotten worse since being here and is annoying. I have a sporadic cough and my nose is stuffed up. Nothing major, no fever or anything, more like allergies or a reaction to the rough air and tight spaces. Makes for a scratchy voice and sniffles though, and the occasional swimming head. A guy at the hotel had some generic Wal Mart cold medicine he carried over from the states, so I popped one of those this morning in hopes the decongestant component will offer a little relief later today. Either way, I'll maintain.
I took some iPhone pictures throughout the first couple days (funny how, the more often you've been somewhere, you tend to be less and less picture crazy). They're not the highest quality images, but I had some time this morning so I uploaded a few for your enjoyment. Check them out below:
Tomorrow I'll work a half-day and then take the short flight to Taiwan to finish out the week there. I canceled the hotel and will be staying with friends while in town, so am excited to spend some time at their new place and bumming around the city with them.
And there's been work too. In fact, the work I've ended up doing has proven really valuable to me. Likely this tells me that I should get out here more often. I've been cloistered in a room with the same five other managers now for going on sixteen hours but the output from our sessions makes me proud. I guess sometimes there's no real substitute for locking yourselves up and hammering on problems until you end up with a solution.
In summary, then: China is busy; went shopping and ate crazy Asian food; worked hard.
Back from Oregon. Up at 4am to catch the train to the airport, I tried to build a "better" public transit schedule to the airport, ignoring the trains and times the website recommended and instead "discovering" a better route on my own, buying myself another half hour of slumber. All worked well until the train which, just ten or so stops prior, had been marked "Airport" instead changed its destination sing to read "Not In Service."
It was right around then that they kicked me out. Miles from the airport, I asked the conductor who was turning me out why the train was no longer bound for the airport. "Another train'll be along in a few minutes," was all I got. Fifteen minutes later I boarded that "another train." Long lines at check-in and security found me sprinting (on dead-sore post-hike legs) to my gate, where I managed to board just before they closed the door. Whew.
Common sense says I should be tired; should maybe be in bed already. But instead I had all this nervous energy I had to vent. After landing I went and got a haircut, then went into the office for the afternoon. After that I came home, unpacked, cleaned the garage, and transplanted Pat's hops into my backyard to tend while he's away. Our friends Pat and Cynthia were over, spending their last homeless night in the USofA eating dinner and waiting for their departure amongst friends. Around 9pm we walked them to the car and waved goodbye, and they drove off to a new life in another country. Before he left, and even though it started out as a handshake, I gave Pat a real hug.
A busy week ahead, and I'm all alone with Keaton for the last bit of it. Sharaun's off to Florida for a bachelorette party and it's up to us to fend for ourselves for four whole days. Payback, I suppose, for my weekend hiking in Oregon perhaps. I'm sort of excited about playing Mr. Mom, being responsible for every moment of the day... and then I also feel daunted by the task of doing what Sharaun does with Keaton. I guess I can think of it as training for the weekend of the actual wedding... which is also this month. Hat's off to the guys raisin' they kids, huh?
Good Wednesday evening, friends and lovers. Tonight the trash goes out; I'll never cease to marvel at the fact that I can drag 15lbs of stuff I no longer want down to my curb and wake up with it gone. Garbagemen don't get the respect they deserve... that's an essential job, y'all. Now to the canned stuff.
A long time ago, in the early days of my Taiwan travel, I received some local tea as a gift from a customer on a visit (hey sawmill gestapo, it weren't an ethics violation - I was assured it was less than $20). The tea came in an attractive tube-shaped container, with faux gold Chinese characters and decorations "lacquered" on the outside. I even came equipped with some of that traditional Chinese red-tassle stuff tied in pretty bows and knots around it. Thankful, I accepted the tea and brought it back with me to America (US Customs was never informed, take that Big Brother). When I got home, I showed it to Sharaun and proceeded to put it, unopened, up on the highest, normally unreachable, relegated to seldom-used items, shelf in the pantry. And, until last night, that's where it stayed.
What jarred it loose from its dusty enclave was an episode of a show I enjoy called Bizarre Foods. On this episode, the host was touring the beautiful isle of Taiwan, sampling its many strange foodstuffs. At one restaurant he was treated to a multiple-course meal in which every dish was based around the tea leaf. Seeing how much the Taiwanese love and value their tea reminded me of that red and gold tube hiding way up in the back of the pantry. So, I pulled over a dining room chair and climbed atop to peer into the dark recesses of our dry goods. There, pushed all the way back into the corner, sat the tea. I yanked it down and proceeded to open it. Inside was a vacuum-sealed foil packet, and absolutely nothing in the way of instructions, guidance, or information (well, at least not in English).
Now, I should add here that, on the TV, the Bizarre Foods host was receiving a lesson in "rare" and expensive Chinese teas, and was browsing some of the insanely priced high-end teas one can purchase in Taiwan. The leaf he was looking at came out to about $7,000 USD per dried pound. At this point, I began telling Sharaun that, when the customer had given me the tea so long ago, the Taiwanese national who was with me had told me that it was very rare and expensive, and likely worth about $800 for the entire tube. This story was completely false. So, as I'm examining the sealed foil package, she's all the while harping from the couch, "Don't you dare open that! You need to put that stuff on Ebay! Do not even think about opening some $800 tea!"
I wanted to maintain the ruse a little longer, and besides, I was truly unsure how to make the stuff and needed to do a little research. So, I left the bag sealed and hit the internet to figure out how to "brew loose leaf tea." The internet, for the only time ever, was largely a disappointment. That's when I remembered another long-lost item I'd seen gathering dust in our house (we really need to do some large-scale cleaning and purging, it would seem): an electric tea-brewing gadget that was sitting, also unopened, somewhere in the garage. Since it was only 11pm, I decided to go have a look. I located the "Mrs. Tea" right away, and brought my prize inside.
"What are you going to do with that?," she asked. "I know you're not thinking you're going to make that tea... you need to sell that stuff, not drink it. Let's make $800 on that crap." "Babe," I said, as I pulled out the paring knife to cut open the foil package, "I was just messing with you, this stuff isn't worth $800." "I knew that," she replied.
I sawed off the top of the foil tube and gave the rolled, dried leaves a nice sniff. To my surprise, they still maintained the very strong and pleasant aroma of Chinese green tea (I didn't even know what kind of tea this was until I saw it). Luckily, "Mrs. Tea" came with some teaspoons-of-loose-leaf to cups-of-tea guidance, and, by 11:30pm, I had a nice hot pot of traditional Chinese green tea. I must say, the tea was delicious. Reminded me of the stuff I had at the fancy teahouse on the shores of the West Lake in Hangzhou, China, although not as fresh: we had some of the last green leaves of the tea season when we visited on Tombsweeping Day this year. Anyway, in the end it was quite a journey for that little tube of green tea from Taiwan. I look forward to drinking some more of it now that I've broken the seal. Like tea? You're welcome to come have some with me, friend.
Oh my gosh y'all (tea stuff is over now), I was watching a TiVo'd Seinfeld episode tonight and saw a certain Public Service Announcement. At first I was confused, but when I realized at the end that the PSA was warning kids about the dangers of blogging... I was ecstatic! I immediately hunted down the clip to post here. So, remember kids: Think before you post.
Wow, an entire entry about making tea. Good job me. Goodnight.